Results tagged ‘ Chukchansi Park ’

Awkward Kiss Cam Moment

At the Grizzlies’ game on Friday, May 3, 2013, things got a little awkward during the ballpark staple, Kiss Cam.

Awkward Turtle

Innovation, Experimentation At Chukchansi Park

ImageMark your calendars now for Sunday, April 21st. Why? Because for the first time ever, the maker movement will take over a professional baseball game with the Fresno Ideaworks Mini Maker Faire.

What is the maker movement?

From Maker Faire,

Many makers are hobbyists, enthusiasts or students (amateurs!)–but they are also a wellspring of innovation, creating new products and producing value in the community. Some makers do become entrepreneurs and start companies.

Needing a place to exhibit ideas and share projects, the idea of Maker Faire took shape. Maker Faire is “the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth — a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.”

MAKE Magazine launched in 2005 to help nurture the ground for the growing maker community.

The Fresno Ideaworks Mini Maker Faire will be the first Maker Faire held in Fresno in addition to the first at a professional baseball game. It will showcase makers from the Central San Joaquin Valley and beyond with their Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects on display. A Grizzlies game will become a complete learning experience.

The Fresno Ideaworks Mini Maker Faire begins at 12 pm and runs through the end of the Grizzlies game.

The event is for all ages. We are currently seeking makers for event, so if you are interested in sharing your DIY project, please email us here.

As for entry, a Grizzlies game ticket gets you admission into the Fresno Ideaworks Mini Maker Faire. Tickets are available here.

Warming Up In March At Chukchansi Park

February has ended and March has arrived. While Grizzlies baseball starts on April 4th, Chukchansi Park will be hosting several events in the month leading up to baseball season.

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On March 2nd, the Buchanan Babe Ruth baseball league will be hosting its baseball carnival on the Chukchansi Park field. Teams from the Buchanan league will play one-hour games between 9 am and 4 pm. Over 1,500 people are expected to be at Chukchansi Park throughout the day.

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A week later on Saturday, March 9th, another baseball league will be hosting its annual carnival in Downtown Fresno. Central Babe Ruth baseball league will play a day full of games, including some games under the Chukchansi Park lights. Nearly 3,000 people will be at Chukchansi Park during the day and evening.

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Sunday, March 24th is a big day for Chukchansi Park in more ways than one. After last year’s successful debut of Liga MX soccer at Chukchansi Park (an event that drew the largest crowd ever at the stadium), two new teams, the Monarcas de Morelia and Dorados de Sinaloa, will play an exhibition match.

Monarcas are based in Morelia, Michoacan and compete in the top league of Liga MX. Morelia won the 2010 SuperLiga after beating Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution in the finals.

Dorados are based in the city of Culiacan, Sinaloa. They compete in the Ascenso MX league, the second-tier of Mexican professional soccer. While they are a second division team, the Dorados feature Mexican soccer legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco played for Mexico in three different World Cups and has also played for Club America of Liga MX.

March 24th kicks off with a Fresno Fuego intra-squad game at noon. There will also be a pre-game concert near the Tecate Cantina. Tickets for the Liga MX game can be purchased here.

I Hate The Off-Season 4, Episode 3

Parker is a champion. Well, at least he partied like one. From the World Series Watch Parties at Chukchansi Park to the World Series Parade in San Francisco, Parker was there during every step of the San Francisco Giants run to the 2012 championship. In Episode 3 of I Hate The Off-Season 4, Parker shares his entire journey (including seeing some friends from Fresno during the parade in San Francisco!).

Where Champions Are Grown

When the final out was recorded on Sunday night in the San Francisco Giants’ World Series clinching win, baseball’s focal point was on two players: Buster Posey and Sergio Romo. Romo finished off the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera with an unanticipated fastball while Posey received the season’s final pitch to erupt a night of celebrating.

Romo and Posey were two of the 17 players that played for the Fresno Grizzlies at one point in their careers on the Giants’ 25-man roster. The list of 17 is a mix of draft picks, free agents and MLB Rehabbers, but nevertheless, the stamp of the Grizzlies was prevalent on this World Series run.

Torture reigned in 2010. Every night for the Giants seemed like a tall mountain to climb during that season.

In 2012, it was a team-wide never-give-up attitude that carried them to the end. This is not to suggest the 2010 version was a just a group of individuals, but this season, it felt as if each player on the 25-man roster had a moment to shine.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Posey are the more well-known Grizzlies alums, but there are others with stints in Fresno during their careers. Each had a unique moment or moments that introduced them to fans of this band of characters.

Before Xavier Nady drove in three runs in his first game with the Giants on September 1st, he played in 25 games with the Grizzlies. Nady was signed as a minor league free agent after being released by the Washington Nationals. The Nationals, of course, fell in the first round of the playoffs.

Joaquin Arias recorded the final out in Matt Cain’s perfect game, nearly falling over in the process, but he also registered two RBIs in the Grizzlies first game of the 2012 season to help the team to a 3-0 win over Tucson. Arias was a member of the Texas Rangers during the 2010 season when Texas eventually lost to the Giants in the World Series, but Arias was traded to the New York Mets during the season. He had never played in the World Series prior to 2012 and spent most of his career in the minors.

George Kontos was traded at the last possible moment before the start of the 2012 season to the Giants organization from the New York Yankees. He started the season in Fresno, appearing in 23 games and fashioning a 1.71 ERA. Once Kontos earned the Major League promotion in June, he never looked back. In fact, he became a valuable asset for the Giants in the playoffs. Kontos previously pitched in the bigs with the Yankees in 2011, but he did not make their playoff roster. The Yankees eventually lost to the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 playoffs after New York won 101 regular season games.

Ryan Vogelsong, an epitome of hard-work and perseverance, made his first appearance for the Grizzlies during the purple-and-black, home-games-at-Beiden-Field era in 2001. After being the Grizzlies Opening Day starter in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012, he stood on the largest stage and consistently delivered standout performances in 2012 postseason. The Giants originally drafted Vogelsong in 1998 out of Kutztown University. It took Vogelsong many miles traveled, 14 different professional baseball teams and 15 years since he was drafted to taste the nectar of a World Series title.

Santiago Casilla (played for the Grizzlies in 2010 and 2011), Guillermo Mota (2012), Barry Zito (2011), Hector Sanchez (2011-12), Brandon Belt (2010-11), Brandon Crawford (2011), Aubrey Huff (2012) and Pablo Sandoval (2011-12) complete the list of 17 Farm Grown stars on the Giants roster.

When the Giants won the 2010 World Series, 16 of the 25 players on the postseason roster at the time played in Fresno (14 came up through the system while another two appeared with the Grizzlies on MLB Rehab assignments).

Posey was one of only two three positional players on the Giants’ World Series roster in 2012 that was also on the 2010 championship-winning team (Huff was a starter in 2010 but a bench player in 2012). Sandoval, though, was relegated to a bench role in 2010, but he totally redeemed himself in a monstrous way in 2012 with an MVP performance. It is only fitting the likely 2012 MVP from the regular season paired up with the 2012 World Series MVP to guide the Giants offense, banking off experience (positive and negative) from two years ago.

Two World Series titles in the last three years is quite an accomplishment. The Giants are now the first National League team to claim MLB’s championship in two out of three years since the Cincinnati Reds did so in 1975 and 1976.

The Giants deserve each title, but each crown should serve as a moment of pride for the Central San Joaquin Valley community as well. It is one of the few regions in the country that can say they were able to see the World Series champions of tomorrow, today.

Romo threw pitches for the Grizzlies before he jumped to the Majors. Posey was a backstop at Chukchansi Park before a catcher at AT&T Park. The list goes on and on, and we should all be happy to be a part of it all.

Fresno is where champions are grown.

2012 Al Radka Award: John and Diane Carbray

By: Chris Kutz

Leadership can be tricky to define. A significant amount of time and studies have been dedicated to narrowing down what makes a good leader. None seem to give us a universal answer.

In sports, leadership can be vaguely defined as an “intangible.” Leaders are the ones who rise to the top. Teammates and fans are drawn to them. Members of the media, coaches and scouts all attempt to capture this mystic quality as “it.”

“It” is one of the broadest terms in the English language, but from a leadership standpoint, “it” can be found in John and Diane Carbray.

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Diane is Kansas born and raised. She played volleyball, basketball and softball. After completing her undergraduate coursework at Benedictine College in her home state, she later earned her Master’s degree in Sports Administration at Ohio University.

John’s life has been devoted to sporting events and entertainment. His first experience in the business of sports came in the form of professional baseball. He first served as the Northwest League President from 1969-71 before venturing into the Pacific Coast League for the first time in his career with the Eugene Emeralds and Sacramento Solons. He earned the honor of Sporting News Triple-A Executive of the Year in 1974.

The game of soccer brought the two together as the John and Diane first met when both were working with the San Jose Earthquakes, then of the North American Soccer League. In 1983, the future husband and wife founded Projects West Entertainment, a company that would put on more than 400 concerts over 20 years at athletic events.

From Jimmy Buffett to The Beach Boys, The Temptations to Miami Sound Machine, the Carbrays put on shows with a stable of self-owned portable stages. Baseball became one of the easiest settings for an action-packed event from beginning to end.

“Sometimes people would show up in the sixth inning, catch the end of the ballgame and use the 20 minutes between the end of the game and the start of the concert to visit the concession stands, go the bathroom; whatever they needed to do so they see the best of both shows.”

But navigating the country, putting on hundreds of concerts, can show one the corners of the nation that might have not been known prior to the journey.

“Bob Freitas [a Minor League Baseball executive] introduced us to Fresno,” said Diane. “The Fresno Giants/Suns moved to Salinas [after 1988], and Bob called us to see if anyone wanted to buy the wooden bleachers from Euless Park [the Fresno Giants’ former stadium]. The Rose Bowl Parade ended up purchasing the bleachers, but we quickly learned more about Fresno.

“It was a business-decision to bring professional baseball to Fresno. There are five Major League teams in California. From a partnership standpoint, [the MLB teams] would have a partner. This market…not having a pro team, was ripe.”

It was 1991, and the Carbrays began to set in motion their dream of bringing a team to Fresno.

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Leaders without followers are lonely folks. The “it” they possess becomes a wasted quality. Leaders must have the vision, the dream, the persistence to institute change, but no aspiration is attainable without a dose of reality.

Followers institute this reality. They empower leaders to continue on and realize the vision. Without the followers, leaders quickly realize others do not share their goal.

For the Carbrays, the followers became the Fresno community. The Central Valley motivated them to change the landscape of baseball in a land of agriculture. Pro ball may have left, but they brought it back.

“There was a will here,” said Diane. “The community lifted us up, and we were the leaders. We got so far into it, we couldn’t quit.”

“It was a grassroots effort,” said John. “We kept selling the dream. People of Fresno kept us motivated. As soon as we got down, someone would come through the door.”

Seven years worth of motivation from the community was needed before the Carbrays introduced the Grizzlies to Fresno. People such as William Connolly, Jack Emerian, Dave Cates and Tim Cullen helped make up the ownership partners, the Fresno Diamond Group. Residents of the area bought 3,000 season tickets for a team that didn’t yet exist. Each person not only became an investor financially into John and Diane’s vision, but invested their time and efforts to help make the vision a reality.

“We didn’t use their money until the stadium was built. It was a huge trust factor,” said Diane. “Numbers told them it was a good idea.”

The group, led by John and Diane, eventually purchased a Triple-A team in 1996. With the Tucson Toros franchise in hand, the dominoes for a professional baseball team in Fresno began to fall.

A few years later, after getting commitment from more powerful figures in town, the Carbrays were able to fulfill their entire vision: pro baseball in downtown Fresno. Now, Chukchansi Park is considered one of the finest ballparks in Minor League Baseball, even 11 years after it was completed.

The 2012 season will be the Grizzlies’ 15th anniversary and 11th in downtown. The Carbrays always knew a Triple-A team is what Fresno would want.

“It is a bonding experience for everyone with the diversity of people who are going there. It is a melting pot with a common community experience in front. That is why we built it.”

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The Carbrays sold the dream, took the community through a long-winding journey, and delivered the prize to the believers by bringing Fresno the second-highest level of professional baseball in North America to its downtown.

The Al Radka Award was created by the Carbrays in 2003 and meant to celebrate individuals who made a contribution to the community through the game of baseball. They then awarded it to Bill Thompson, but it is now time for the award to come to its original starting point.

“Humbled and honored,” said Diane after learning her and her husband would be recipients of the achievement. “It’s been 15 years since we bought the team, and for it to come full-circle feels great.”

Leaders are visionaries, opportunists, harmonious, persistent, to name a few qualities. As with the Carbrays, whose leadership is being honored at the Hot Stove Gala on January 28th, their qualities can be summed up simply by saying they have “it.”

A Walk In The Park

By: Noah Frank

When you are fortunate enough to work in baseball, you can, from time to time, forget the advantages your job affords you. In the offseason, when there are no games being played, you work a fairly standard 9-5 day, joining the rest of the population on the morning and evening commutes. But if you are lucky enough to have your offices built into the ballpark, and built into as beautiful a ballpark as we have here in Downtown Fresno, there is a constant reminder, right outside the window.

This week, that which all Grizzlies fans already know about our baseball home was revealed to a nationwide audience. Baseball America, the preeminent publication in our sport, chose Chukchansi Park to grace the cover of its 2012 Great Parks Calendar, which will hang in offices and homes from Spokane to Jupiter, from Portland (not Oregon anymore, just Maine) to Orem. It is a special honor for a city like Fresno, one that is not always associated with aesthetic beauty by those who do not live here.

In order to get a feel for the weight of such an honor, I caught up with a couple of people who know Downtown Fresno as well as anyone. Craig Scharton was born and raised in Fresno, and has moved his life Downtown, first living in the Security Bank building before purchasing his current house. This is only fitting, as he spends his days in the city offices as the Director of Downtown and Community Revitalization. There are few people in our town more committed to the success of Downtown than Scharton, who currently has a 20-game package for The CRU Club, and whose family has owned some form of ticket plan since the team’s move to its Downtown home in 2002.

A shot of Chukchansi Park from the Fresno sky. (Fresno Grizzlies)

“It’s obviously an incredible facility,” said Scharton of the ballpark. “And if we forget, we’re always reminded when we take visitors around how beautiful it is.”

Sometimes it takes an outsider’s view to make us aware again of what a great facility we have here. Another one of Downtown’s biggest champions, Travis Sheridan, relayed such a perspective.

“I’ve had visitors in all last year, coming anywhere from St. Louis to Australia,” he recalled. “They have all been so impressed with the ballpark. That’s when you know without a shadow of a doubt that this is a top notch ballpark.”

Scharton also recalled his experiences hearing from those who live outside of Fresno about how Chukchansi Park compares in the national landscape.

“We consistently hear from players and visitors that it’s the nicest ballpark in Triple-A” Scharton commented. That’s saying a lot, considering that six other parks have been built since 2000 in the Pacific Coast League alone.

The ballpark has also become the focal point of the Downtown entertainment experience. Sheridan was living in the Tower District when he first attended a game, back in 2004. Despite being a big baseball fan, he did not begin attending regularly until he became more involved in the future of Downtown four years ago as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Central Valley Business Incubator.

“For me, it was a two-pronged approach,” Sheridan explained. “The more I got involved, the more I started patronizing the Downtown area, and the ballpark is the crown jewel of Downtown. As a baseball fan, I realized I was missing out.”

Sheridan (left) with Billy Crystal in the tunnel behind the Grizzlies dugout. (Don Davis)

Sheridan moved Downtown a year ago and took a much bigger leap in his connection to the Grizzlies this season, when he became the on-field host for 67 of the team’s 72 home games.

“Nothing beats an afternoon at the ballpark,” said Sheridan, who would certainly know. “Walking from my place (at Broadway Lofts) to the ballpark, it’s a great way to experience Downtown. It makes for a great overall urban experience.”

Adding to that experience, at least over the last couple of seasons, was the chance to see past or future World Champions playing right here in Fresno.

“One of the things I thought was great last year was carrying the momentum forward from the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series,” said Sheridan. “We don’t have that with Fresno State Football. There’s not a lot of people who graduate that program who we’re following in the pros.”

Of course, college football lacks the fluid feeder system that the Grizzlies enjoy, thanks to the club’s strong affiliation with the Giants. After all, more than half of the 2010 World Series roster came up through Fresno at one point or another, intrinsically tying Grizzlies fans to last year’s world title. Scharton agreed with the importance of that connection, citing a recent example.

“We were with a whole group in LA last night talking about Downtown (Fresno),” he recalled. “We listed off the players that we’ve all been fortunate enough to watch up close and personal, like Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and even Pablo Sandoval, who hit that home run here last year (on a Major League rehab assignment).”

In good times and bad for the baseball on the field, though, the ballpark remains. As it goes into its 11th year, Chukchansi Park looks as good as ever, as evidenced by its selection for the Great Parks Calendar cover.

The photo used by Baseball America for the cover of the 2012 calendar. (Don Davis)

“We know that we have a great stadium, and we hope that this recognition lets a lot of other people see what a great facility we have too,” said Sharton. “We hope they come and check it out.”

The people Scharton is referring to aren’t limited to just Fresnans, though. There are Giants fans all over the state, mostly north of the Central Valley, who travel great distances to see those in the farm system play.

“Just like people go to Spring Training, they should come down a couple times a year to see the upcoming prospects,” said Scharton. “It’s much easier and much cheaper to come down here than to go Scottsdale.”

Scottsdale Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Giants, is somewhat similar to Chukchansi Park. It holds roughly 12,000 people and was wholly renovated just a couple of years after Chukchansi Park was built. Both provide an opportunity for Giants fans to get out of San Francisco and watch the up-and-comers in the organization before they hit the Major League level. Sheridan agreed, for the most part, that Fresno could pull the same type of fan that makes the trek to Arizona each spring.

“Spring Training will always be a destination, but you can definitely carry that momentum,” Sheridan suggested. “Once people that have been identified in Spring Training as prospects, you can follow those folks in Fresno, throughout the year. To be able to see the prospects in Scottsdale and know you’ll be able to catch them any weekend in Fresno is a good selling point.”

It certainly won’t hurt to have some national recognition from the likes of Baseball America, either.

Prospect Watch: Gary Brown

By: Noah Frank

Oh, the offseason. The lack of daily baseball at Chukchansi Park leaves those of us who work here itching to get a jump on next year. And so, as we did last offseason, we will begin looking at the players making their way through the farm system who seem likely to spend at least part of the 2012 season here in the Central Valley. There will be names you most likely recognize, as well as those you probably do not. We’ll start this year’s crop with one that most Grizzlies and Giants fans know by now: Gary Brown.

Even if he begins the season at Double-A Richmond, which seems likely, given the logjam in center field created by the likes of Justin Christian, Darren Ford, Tyler Graham, the newly-signed Gregor Blanco and possibly Andres Torres, Brown will be a name often on the tips of Grizzlies fans’ tongues next season. That expectation simply comes with the territory when you are a first-round draft pick, as Brown was in 2010. Just ask Madison Bumgarner (’07) and Buster Posey (’08), or the recently departed Zach Wheeler (’09), who now faces the additional pressure with the Mets of being the top prospect traded for a star in Carlos Beltran.

Brown's season continued with the Scottsdale Scorpions this fall. (Chris Lockard/Scout.com)

With Beltran himself quite possibly heading elsewhere this offseason, that will put pressure on Brown to live up to large expectations, and will no doubt lead to fans calling for his promotion to the Majors sooner rather than later.

Brown has certainly done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm surrounding him, but the Giants were careful with the Cal State Fullerton product in his first season. After assigning him straight to High-A San Jose in 2011, Brown was given the entire season to prove what he could accomplish in the California League. All he did was post a line of .336/.407/.519, rapping out 61 extra-base hits, stealing 53 bases, and scoring a mind-numbing 115 runs in just 131 games for the minor Giants.

As we always do at Yard Work, we sought out the expertise of someone who has seen what Brown can do close-up. We spoke briefly about Brown a couple weeks prior with former Grizzlies hitting coach Ken Joyce, who served in the same role for Brown’s Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, whose regular season ends today. But we went into greater depth with Joe Ritzo, the radio voice of the San Jose Giants, to learn more about what to expect out of the young centerfielder as he moves through the system. Ritzo pulls no punches when describing the role Brown played for San Jose, picked as the High-A Team of the Year, last season.

“He was our MVP,” says Ritzo, and it’s easy to see why. “Everyone knows about his speed and his defensive abilities, which were evident on a daily basis, but he had power too.”

Indeed, Brown swatted 14 home runs on the season. He also absolutely wore out left-handed pitching, batting .459 with a .685 slugging percentage (!) against southpaws last year. Not bad for a leadoff hitter.

Ritzo also compares Brown’s speed to the likes of Grizzlies single-season and franchise stolen base leader Graham, as well as Ford. Those two have been considered the fastest prospects in the system over the last few seasons, so the bar has been set high in the speed department before Brown ever sets his fleet feet in Fresno. But how does he compare to recent top draft picks at other positions?

Brown, like Brett Pill, is a Cal State Fullerton product. (mattbrownphoto.com)

“I’ve been here five or six years and there’s nobody quite like him and how he plays the game,” says Ritzo, which is high praise considering the top prospects that have roamed the diamond at Municipal Stadium the last few years. When I ask Ritzo to compare Brown to the likes of Posey and Bumgarner, he provides some interesting perspective.

“I don’t think his personality was really like any of those players,” he posits. “But what you see is that desire, working so hard before games, the competitive edge that you might see in Buster and Madison that separates them from others. The mental ability that those guys had, Gary has it as well.”

Brown, as mentioned earlier, had the advantage of coming through a high-caliber college baseball program at Cal State Fullerton, the same school that produced Brett Pill. Fresno fans have seen that the experience and maturity gained from those years has paid dividends for Pill, and they seem to be doing the same for Brown, according to Ritzo.

“There’s something extra when you watch him play that you just feel confident that he’s going to have a long and successful Major League career,” says Ritzo. “You can’t predict that kind of Major League success with much certainty very often with guys at the Single-A level.”

The only tick on Brown’s stellar 2011 performance can be seen with a deeper look into his month-by-month numbers. He batted .333 (including a .385 mark in August and a .397 clip in May) or better in every month of the season except one— a glaring .202 performance in June. In cases like these, it’s important to look for answers beyond the box scores, which is where someone like Ritzo comes in handy to provide context for such a slump.

Brown's speed in the outfield, and on the base paths, sets him apart. (Tony Medina)

“We made a lot of roster moves right about that time (early June), including sending Hector Sanchez to Fresno, and Gary was arguably playing better than any of those guys,” explains Ritzo. “He was maybe anticipating that call-up, and when he didn’t get the call it was a little disappointing, so he hit a bit of a lull. It was expressed to him that the organization wants him to stay in San Jose the whole year.”

While the San Francisco brass may have taken the conservative route with Brown in 2011, Ritzo does not expect them to necessarily continue to do moving forward.

“You get the sense that they won’t go that same route this year, especially if he’s starting the season in Richmond,” Ritzo says. “I would think if he starts hot would make it to Fresno before too long. If he has anything close to the kind of year that he had in San Jose, he’ll move quickly through the system.”

Here’s to hoping Fresno fans get a glimpse of what Brown can do sooner rather than later.

Parker’s Recreation

By: Noah Frank

As many of you no doubt recall, Chukchansi Park was transformed into a live-action Hollywood film set on August 27th during the penultimate game of the 2011 season, against Sacramento. Every fan in attendance was afforded a unique opportunity that day: the possibility of appearing on screen in a major motion picture.

But one person— or should we say, bear— impressed the cameras enough to land himself a larger role in the production. That’s right, not only did the cameras flock to Parker in Fresno, those involved with the film were so taken with the orange bear that they recently flew him down to the primary set just outside of Atlanta to do some follow-up shots. Yard Work sat down with the Grizzlies’ lovable mascot (and a bear translator) following his recent excursion to get all the juicy details.

Yard Work: So Parker, we heard you took a trip recently. Why were you out of Fresno during the offseason?

Parker: I was out of town to go be a part of the big movie titled “Parental Guidance” [originally “Us & Them”] with Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marissa Tomei. It was a great time.

YW: I heard you had to take a pretty long plane flight to get out there. Where were you guys shooting?

P: We were shooting in Atlanta, at the Gwinett Braves baseball park. It was a crazy long flight. My ears were popping nonstop— I mean, I’m a bear, what would you expect?

Parker sits in his very own director's chair. (Cody Turner)

YW: Were there good snacks on flight?

P: I had all the soda and peanuts I could fit in my big, round belly, all the way from here to Phoenix to Atlanta.

YW: How did the other passengers feel about traveling next to a bear on an airplane?

P: They were staring at me, taking pictures, wondering what this crazy bear was doing on a plane. The little kids didn’t know what to do at first, but I let them rub my fur and they warmed up to me.

YW: Did you get a chance to hibernate at all on the plane?

P: I try to hibernate every chance I get in the winter, but I’ve never tried on an airplane before. It was a little hard to get stretched out and fully comfortable.

YW: What was your favorite moment shooting in Atlanta?

P: My favorite moment was when we shot the scene with all the extras. There were like 200 plus extras who had never seen me before, so I didn’t know if they were going to like me or not. I thought they might boo me, or throw popcorn at me, but as soon as I got on top of the dugout everything was great. They were following my claps, there was chanting. I think they were just excited to see this bear shake his belly and do the worm on top of the dugout.

YW: Were there any other particularly funny moments?

P: The funniest moment was when we were filming on top of the dugout. It was one of the first scenes we shot, and the cameraman was filming the fans instead of me. I’m running around like crazy to get everybody fired up. Finally the director yelled “Cut! Cameraman, stay on Parker, not the fans!” I didn’t even realize he wasn’t filming me the whole time, and you know, it’s the offseason, I’m not exactly in peak condition. So I had to catch my breath and film the whole thing over again.

Parker poses with members of the cast and crew of "Parental Guidance". (Cody Turner)

YW: Did you get to meet anyone famous while you were out there?

P: None of the leads were on set, but I got to meet a couple of the supporting actors like Peter Luis Zimmerman.

YW: Did they tell you which scenes you filmed are going to make it to the big screen?

P: They didn’t tell me anything. They just had me doing a lot of crowd action shots. We did a Kiss Cam. I don’t want to give away the ending, but keep an eye out for it, it’s pretty funny.

YW: Is it true that you got your own trailer?

P: I did, but the trailer was super small. If I stretched out all the way my head would pop out one end and my feet out the other end. But it was pretty cool, it had my name on it and everything. And the food? The food was awesome, I loved every bite of it.

YW: Do you think this will help you land any future Hollywood roles?

P: Who knows, they didn’t tell me much, but they were glad I came out there. At first, they thought I was a fake Parker, but it was me, the real deal, straight from Fresno.

Yard Work and the Fresno Grizzlies will keep you up to date on news about “Parental Guidance”, tentatively scheduled for theatrical release on November 21, 2012. And keep an eye out for Parker— he might just be the next Hollywood star born out of Fresno!

If You’re Going To San Francisco

By: Noah Frank

When Justin Christian signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants last offseason, he didn’t expect an assignment back to the Double-A Eastern League, with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. That’s exactly where the 31-year-old found himself on Opening Day, though, surrounded by teammates and opponents in their mid-20s, a place he was in when he first came up through the New York Yankees farm system five years prior.

Christian was an up-and-coming 26-year-old when he opened the 2006 season on the roster of the Trenton Thunder, the Eastern League team affiliated with the Yankees. He made it to the majors in June of 2008, but lasted just 24 games before being sent back to Triple-A. The Yankees non-tendered him in 2009, and he spent a shortened season in the Orioles chain after recovering from shoulder surgery. He began 2010 in Indy ball before the Yankees signed him once again, but he was relegated to a season split between Double-A and Triple-A again. Needing a change of scenery, Christian signed as a free agent with the Giants, his hometown team that he grew up rooting for in San Mateo. And yet, here he was to begin 2011, back on the east coast, two big steps removed from getting back to the promised land.

“Having to start in Double-A was tough for me,” Christian admitted. “I looked it as an opportunity to help the young guys over there and to get at-bats in and to perform and be ready to be up here.”

Christian kept his head down and his numbers up in Fresno. (Don Davis)

To keep himself focused, Christian decided on a walk-up song that would remind him of his ultimate goal, a return to the Major Leagues. That song was the “San Francisco Anthem” by San Quinn, a hip-hop track that samples Scott McKenzie’s seminal ‘60s hit “San Francisco”. Those at the Diamond in Richmond, as well as those who attended a game at Chukchansi Park following Christian’s promotion Fresno, may well remember it echoing from the sound system as he stepped to the plate.

“You always want to have those constant, daily reminders of where you want to be,” he explained. “I think if you see it every day, you hear it everyday and you believe it, that you will get there.”

Nevertheless, the dream still seemed distant, even after the move to Triple-A. Christian had hit a modest .256/.328/.359 with four home runs, 18 stolen bases and 46 runs scored in 73 games for the Flying Squirrels, and had only really gotten the opportunity to play in Fresno after Darren Ford and Tyler Graham collided going after a ball in right-center field at Kino Stadium in Tucson. The former had tweaked his wrist on the play, leading to the decision to move Christian up.

So much of baseball, though, as players and longtime fans of the game will tell you, is what you do when opportunity comes your way. Christian took full advantage of his opportunity, homering twice and swiping five steals through his first four games as a Grizzly. He would go on to finish his 64-game Triple-A stint at .338/.428/.574 with 10 homers and 36 steals in just 39 attempts. When the Giants decided to part ways with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, summoning Brett Pill from Fresno, there was one more spot open on the 40-man roster. As much as a player can’t let himself be concerned with such administrative details as he goes about trying to succeed on the field each day, there is no avoiding it.

“Personally, I’m never too much aware of that part of the game because I’m too focused on playing well every single day,” said Christian. “But, you know, I have an agent, and a girlfriend that knows more about that kind of stuff than I do.”

Moments before one of Christian's spectacular catches this season. (AP)

As it turned out, Christian did not need to avoid the chatter from either agent or girlfriend. He would end up filling that final 40-man spot on September 6th, seven months to the day after signing with San Francisco.

“There were a couple of other guys who were deserving as well and they chose me,” he said in an early September interview in the home clubhouse at AT&T Park. “That means a lot to me. I always believed, deep down, that I could get back here.”

Not only did Christian get the call-up he has been waiting for, ever since recovering from that shoulder surgery, he found himself consistently in the starting lineup, batting leadoff. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve always expected to play, that’s just my mindset,” he said. “When the Yankees called me up back in June of ’08, even though I flew all day that day, I expected to play, and sure enough I was in the lineup. I always to expect to play, so that I’m not surprised. It’s too hard to do it the other way.”

With his speed and decent pop in his bat, as well as a propensity for highlight-reel catches like this, and this, Christian will be an intriguing piece of the puzzle as the Giants decide the future of their outfield.

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